Principle 10-Part 1: Branding from the Inside Out

Book Discussion:
Sticky Branding by Jeremy Miller

Sticky Brands have something special about them. You can feel it when you engage with them or when you buy from them. And that something are their people, their values and their culture.

Miller cites Jim Collins, author of the book “Good to Great,” who provides the perfect lead-in to this principle: “Those who build great companies understand that the ultimate throttle on growth for any company is not markets, or technology, or competition, or products. It is one thing above all others: the ability to get and keep enough of the right people.” (page 151)

He is not talking about extraordinarily talented or smart people; he is talking about people who are a great fit for your company or team. He is thinking of people who feel a connection with your company and go above and beyond in doing their job.

It doesn’t really matter how big your team or your company is. I believe we can apply this idea to even the smallest of companies and teams because each employee or team member represents your company and your brand to the outside world.

What does it take to get that kind of commitment, focus and enthusiasm (and that includes you, too)? It takes a clear definition of your purpose combined with well-defined values tied to the freedom to live and practice both.   

Sticky Brands combine all three. Employees “know who they are, why they exist, and who they serve.” (page 152).  And it shows. Their customers feel their confidence and commitment because all decisions are based on their purpose as well as on their values. These are their guiding principles ensuring that they stay on track and true to who they are.

It’s not enough to pay only lip service to purpose and core values. Both have to be lived and nurtured on a daily basis. They should serve as your company’s backbone. If they fail to do so, the consequences can be dire. A very sad example is Enron and its bankruptcy in 2001 that cost many people their jobs and, to make matters worse, their retirement savings.

Based on their annual report of 2000 page 29 Enron’s core values were:

Communication
We have an obligation to communicate.

Respect
We treat others as we would like to be treated.

Integrity
We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely.

Excellence
We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do.

These core values sound great and may have been written with good intentions, but they lack specificity and were clearly meaningless to Enron’s leadership who tried to disguise major losses through fraudulent accounting methods causing their stocks to plummet and ultimately leading to their bankruptcy.

But let’s not stop here. Let’s now see what a good example of core values can look like. Miller used an outdoor adventure park called WildPlay as an example.

  • Evolve the human – Because life is not lived to fullness in a comfort zone, we exist to challenge people to evolve beyond their self-perceived limits.
  • Nurture the pride – We lead our mission through best-of-breed practices where no one gets hurt. Passionate about growth, we put first things first. We believe that humour is intelligent and underpins our focus on fun. Completionists, we are resourceful problem solvers, dependably driving results and we know when to let go. We are bravely vulnerable in our curiosity and creativity. Our inclusive family works as a creative and loyal team where empathy is a given. We challenge each other directly and never compromise our integrity. We seek awesomeness.
  • Taste the dirt – If you don’t know Mother Earth, you won’t take care of her. In our circle of influence, we grow the next generation of caretakers by establishing a sense of kinship with natural spaces. We stretch to take care of the environment in realistic ways that are achievable. Get dirty and remember the smells while you make a difference. Nothing is more primal than the elements.
  • Share the fruit – The labour of our business should result in an obvious and tangible benefit to our team and to our neighbors. We foster skills growth, as mentors to fellow WildPlayers and encourage each to adventure and grow. Our evangelists link us to our communities, on and off our dirt. We have a clear social purpose that we can fulfill, and through giving and participation, we show our commitment to that.
  • Brand Promise – We release your original human and change the course of your life through the thrill and challenge of adventure! We make it easy to decide to “Take the leap” and to have a fun and unique visit. We deliver “awesomeness” at every step along your journey with us.

Don’t you agree that these core values are far more specific and closely relate to what WildPlay is doing? I’m pretty sure that if you had asked an Enron employee, they may not even have known what their company’s core values were. But I can easily imagine that WildPlay employees know exactly what theirs are.

Miller has a great idea on how to find your company’s values. I suggest trying it out if you have problems finding yours. Instead of asking what you are, why not flip the question on its head and ask instead what you are not. Ask each team member to write seven sentences “We are not…” (page 162) preferably on a sticky note or index card and put them on a wall. In case you are a solopreneur, you can do it, as well. Either by yourself, but where is the fun in that, or with someone you believe can help you. Group the notes or cards that show similarities and focus on the columns that are the longest. Now it’s time to flip the script again. Use the negative statements and create positive ones. Use words that are meaningful to you and your team members.

I’ll give you some time to work on that and will see you next week for Part 2 of Principle 10. Until then, have fun and let me know how it went.

Regine

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